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Council Gives Tentative OK to Anti-Graffiti Law

November 22, 1990|PHIL SNEIDERMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A wide-ranging, anti-graffiti ordinance that targets vandals, paint stores and the owners of defaced buildings won tentative approval Tuesday from the Glendale City Council.

The proposal, scheduled for a final vote next week, requires merchants to lock up spray paint and demands that building owners promptly remove graffiti from their walls. It also imposes criminal penalties on graffiti vandals and allows the City Council to offer rewards for tips leading to their arrest.

Madalyn Blake, the city's director of community development and housing, said Glendale already is spending about $300,000 annually to clean up graffiti. She said the new ordinance is designed to place some of the cleanup responsibility outside City Hall.

"No longer do we have the resources to address the graffiti problem and eliminate it," she said.

Blake said the proposed Glendale law, modeled after anti-graffiti measures in neighboring cities, "has taken the strongest elements from the ordinances we looked at."

Council members Carl Raggio, Jerold Milner and Ginger Bremberg said they favor the plan.

But Mayor Larry Zarian said he could not support it because of the cleanup burden it imposes on property owners. "I think we're declaring war on the victims instead of the perpetrators," he said.

"We should be going after the gang members" responsible for much of the graffiti, Zarian added.

"Our goal is to remove graffiti as quickly as possible, not to make criminals of the property owners in the community," Blake said. The city will be flexible when graffiti problems are chronic or pose a financial hardship to the property owners, she said.

But Zarian said, "I don't think the enforcement of the ordinance is going to be equitable."

If approved, the ordinance would:

* Make it illegal to sell to minors spray paint or markers with tips that are one-quarter inch or longer; it also would be illegal for minors to possess such materials when not accompanied by a responsible adult.

* Require merchants to keep all spray paint in locked cabinets or other storage areas. Markers would have to be placed in full view or control of salesmen.

* Require private property owners to remove all graffiti from their buildings or fences within 20 days of receiving a city order to do so. If the owner fails to remove the graffiti, the city would remove it and charge the cost to the owner.

* Enable the City Council to offer a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of graffiti vandals.

* Cause graffiti vandals, store owners and others who violate the new ordinance to be cited or face criminal misdemeanor charges at the discretion of the city attorney. Community service could be imposed. The city could seek restitution or collect fines from the parents or guardian of a minor who is unable to pay.

To help businesses comply, Blake has proposed that spray-paint and marker restrictions be phased in over a three-month period.

At Tuesday's council meeting, only one speaker, Glendale apartment owner Frank Drewe, criticized the proposal. He urged the city to educate property owners and merchants about graffiti without imposing harsh penalties.

"Let's do all of these things before we think about threatening honest store owners with a fine or jail term, just because they can't afford expensive lockup cabinets for spray paint," he said.

The need for a new anti-graffiti law was discussed by the City Council at its annual retreat in August. After raising concerns about the impact on property owners, the council urged the city staff to prepare the measure.

City staff members studied anti-graffiti ordinances in Los Angeles, San Fernando, Long Beach, Simi Valley, Anaheim, Santa Ana and Orange. They said the proposed Glendale law will be more restrictive than those in any of the other cities.

Last week, the Los Angeles City Council approved an anti-graffiti ordinance requiring merchants to keep spray paint in display cases.

Rick Birle, a Standard Brands Paint Co. spokesman, argued unsuccessfully against the Los Angeles measure on behalf of the National Paint and Coatings Assn.

He said Tuesday that he was unaware of the Glendale proposal. "It seems to be the trend lately for cities to pass lockup ordinances," he conceded.

"Experience has taught us that lockup measures have not been effective in reducing vandalism in other cities, most notably New York," Birle added.

He said New York vandals are buying spray paint elsewhere or using substitute marking materials, such as shoe polish. Birle claimed that the New York lockup law, adopted five years ago, cut legitimate retail spray-paint sales by more than 40%.

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